With lockdown set to continue for an unknown but potentially lengthy amount of time, it’s time for us all to work on our home office setups and optimise them for our wellbeing and productivity.
With the push to work from home coming as a surprise to some, most home offices were set up quickly and in a manner that suggested the move was brief and temporary.
However, as the weeks progress, we are all starting to realise that remote working could be a long-term situation. In which case, it’s time to optimise our home working setups to make them work best for us.
Only work in your workspace
Now you’re working from home, it can be tempting to, for example, quickly reply to an email from the sofa, or create a social media post while in the bathroom. However, it is best for your mental wellbeing if you allocate one area of the home for working and leave the rest of it for leisure.
Mixing the two areas means that you’ll never end up feeling fully switched off, and taking a break is more important now than ever before.
Likewise, if possible, only use your workspace for work; don’t sit where you work outside of your work hours.
Buy some noise-cancelling headphones
Unless you live alone with no neighbours, the chances are your workday gets disturbed by housemates or family members, and maybe your next-door neighbour’s dog.
Even birdsong, which is beautiful, can be very loud and disruptive when you’re trying to concentrate on your work.
So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones. When you do, you’ll honestly wonder how you ever lived without them!
You can choose to enjoy the blissful silence or play some chillout tracks. Try and opt for music without lyrics, as words can be distracting for your mind.
For the ultimate calming experience, play nature sounds. Noises such as ocean waves or a babbling brook are said to activate calm, lower blood pressure, and help you to concentrate.
Share the household responsibilities
Whether you live with housemates or your partner, it’s time to share the responsibilities equally. If you don’t have one already, get a rota drawn up for chores to make it fair on everyone.
You can move tasks around to suit each person’s schedule, of course, but having a document to refer back to really helps with getting tasks done fairly and on time.
If you have kids and are balancing working from home with entertaining your children, work out a plan between you and your partner whereby one of you starts work early and finishes at lunchtime, and the other then works until the early evening.
This way, the kids are always supervised, and you both get time to work undisturbed.
Give housemates a sign
If you live in a house share and your video calls keep being disrupted by your housemates, it’s time to get a pen and paper out and create a ‘do not disturb’ sign! It may sound a bit silly, but many people have been doing this, and it works.
Hang the sign on your door whenever you’re on a call, and it should cut down on the number of times your friends burst into your workspace unannounced.
Of course, this could work for family, too.
Discourage outside interruptions
Some well-meaning family members and friends may think that now you’re working from home, it’s a more casual setup and it’s, therefore, fine to disturb you throughout the day. This is even more likely if they aren’t currently working themselves.
While it’s lovely that they are thinking of you, make it clear to them that the only thing that has changed in your working life is the location.
If people are still trying to contact you throughout the working day and you don’t need your mobile phone for work, place it in another room and only check it on your lunch break and after work.
Spend time being grateful
There’s no denying we are living in a tough time right now but, amongst all the bad that is happening, it is more important than ever to feel and express gratitude for the people and things in your life that are wonderful.
This includes at work and so, if someone helps you out, make sure to thank them. If possible, skip the typed message and pick up the phone or have a quick video call to express your gratitude. A simple thanks can give a colleague a real mood boost.
To boost your own mood, create a new habit and ask ‘what am I thankful for today?’ every day. You can do this in a journal, or at the dinner table with family or friends to get everyone involved.
At the time of writing, we are in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and UK residents are allowed one trip outdoors per day for exercise. Make sure you use it!
Even if you’re not usually into working out, exercise can help to improve mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Keep it simple with a walk or jog, or try out an app with guided exercise routines.
Even if you don’t feel like exercising, make sure you always get outside — merely being in nature can help to lower stress levels and clear your mind. If you’re interested in this topic, you can find out more on the Mind website.